Excellent article I stumbled upon last week chronicling the history of the "beat tape." Read an excerpt from the article below and read the actual article HERE. Highly Recommended reading.
Digging around for research I stumbled across an old interview with Questlove, one of hip-hop’s most enthusiastic historians. In between stories about Jay Dee’s beat tapes and how some of the greatest producers from the ’90s got to be the leaders they became, The Roots frontman drops this gem: “But man… in ’94 and ’95? Beat tape sharing was like a code of honour.”
What transpires from Quest’s stories is the seriousness of beatmaking as a practice in the ’90s: not just in terms of who flipped what, where, when and how, but also in terms of how essential it was to the craft and becoming an established producer. You made beats, non-stop. Once you’d reached a certain level of skill and confidence you might then consider making a tape of your best work and pass that to some trusted ears. With some luck, the tape might spread and land you work and props. The story of how Q-Tip discovered a young Jay Dee (as related most recently in his RBMA lecture) involves a beat tape (and an expensive phone bill for Questlove).